In a Corner post yesterday , I sketched the broad outlines of a possible Left-Center-Right deal on global warming that involved a tax swap (higher on motor fuels, lower on sales or income), land-use deregulation to promote mixed-use development, and dedicating the gas-tax proceeds to transportation infrastructure to combat congestion. Lots of email followed, some thoughtful, some of the vituperative phylum. One thing I wish I had spelled out more clearly, and have in other forums, is that the sales/income tax reductions should be “paid for” by slicing corporate welfare, agriculture subsidies, or other low-priority spending about which one might secure broad Right-Left agreement. Matthew Yglesias’ readers properly took note of the double-counting problem in the proposal without the spending offsets.
As to charges of surrendering to the Green foe, don’t be silly. The proposal is for the sake of argument. Climate-change alarmists are fond of saying that their proposals would make sense for the environment and economy even if human-induced global warming does not prove to be catastrophic. Makes you wonder why they don’t just cite the other reasons, but fine. Assume no catastrophe. It would still be better if we swapped out the taxes as proposed—fuel efficiency has eaten away at the ability of gas taxes to generate revenue in tandem with miles driven, thus yielding serious, unfunded infrastructure needs. On the other hand, other taxes are too high because of wasteful spending. Nuclear power is superior to most alternatives for a host of reasons unrelated to greenhouse gas emissions. And local regulations force people to live farther away from where they work or shop than they might choose in a free market.
[Cue the Monty Hall music] Let’s make a deal!